Policy Paper: The Ethics of Using Formers to Prevent and Counter Violent Extremism


  • Katerina Papatheodorou Georgia State University


Former Extremists, PCVE, Ethics, Research, Practitioners


After 9/11, the academic study of terrorism flourished as more government resources were focused on counterterrorism efforts. As the focus slowly shifted towards P/CVE or Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism, more and more articles lauded the potential benefits of including Formers. The idea behind that was that experience equals expertise. Formers have been valuable data sources as research participants. However, the current trend has seen Formers leave that role and take on far more complicated and sophisticated roles, such as deradicalization experts, claiming to help people leave extremism. This policy paper focuses on the evidence, specifically the lack of evidence, to support the prevailing assumptions regarding the effectiveness of Formers and dissects the ethical issues arising from their involvement in P/CVE. The paper ends with policy recommendations to shift P/CVE activities and research toward a more empirically-grounded model. Since P/CVE initiatives involve a variety of actors, from academic researchers to the media to practitioners, this paper is not aimed at one field or profession. Rather, it is intended for everyone involved in P/CVE-related activities, including research.


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